Royal Court U-turn over play axed amid harassment claims


Samantha Robinson and James AthertonImage copyright
Richard Davenport/The Other Richard

Image caption

Samantha Robinson and James Atherton are in the cast of Rita, Sue and Bob Too

London ’s Royal Court theatre has reversed its decision to cancel a production of Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

The theatre had said it was axing the play after allegations that its co-director Max Stafford-Clark made inappropriate sexual comments to staff.

But artistic director Vicky Featherstone said she had been “rocked to the core by accusations of censorship” and it would now go ahead.

Stafford-Clark apologised in October for “any inappropriate behaviour”.

The Guardian reported in October how he had left his theatre company Out Of Joint after a staff member had made a formal complaint about his lewd comments.

Before starting Out Of Joint, he was artistic director at the Royal Court from 1979 to 1993.

‘Censorship accusations’

Earlier this week, the theatre said the play had “themes of grooming and abuses of power on young women” that were not appropriate.

But in a statement Ms Featherstone said she had reinstated the production, which had been due to run for two-and-a-half weeks in January before it was cancelled.

She said the theatre was “nothing without the voices and trust of our writers”.

“This is the guiding principle on which the theatre was founded and on which it continues to be run,” she said.

“I have therefore been rocked to the core by accusations of censorship and the banning of a working-class female voice.

“For that reason, I have invited the current Out of Joint production of Rita, Sue and Bob Too back to the Royal Court for its run.

“As a result of this helpful public debate we are now confident that the context with which Andrea Dunbar’s play will be viewed will be an invitation for new conversations.”

Performance dates and times will remain the same, the theatre said.

The play, which has toured the UK, opened in September at the Octagon theatre in Bolton, which was also a partner in the co-production with the Royal Court.

In recent months, the Royal Court has been at the forefront of tackling sexual harassment and abuse in the theatre world.

Earlier this year, it staged a “day of action”, which led to a code of conduct.

In October, a spokesperson for Stafford-Clark told The Guardian the director had suffered from pseudobulbar palsy and “occasional disinhibition” since a stroke and brain injury in 2006.

A statement said: “Mr Stafford-Clark’s occasional loss of the ability to inhibit urges results in him displaying disinhibited and compulsive behaviour and his usual (at times provocative) behaviour being magnified, often causing inappropriate social behaviour.

“Whilst this is an explanation it isn’t an attempt to dismiss his behaviour and he apologises for any offence caused.”

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